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More COVID-19 relief for Minnesota arts organizations; New Native Theatre Play Festival begins

ALSO: readings from three poets; new dance from Walker and Northrop; The Betty Crocker Musical; and more.

With support from Art of the Rural, a Winona neighborhood gathered in 2019 to celebrate its history and imagine its future.
With support from Art of the Rural, a Winona neighborhood gathered in 2019 to celebrate its history and imagine its future.
Courtesy of Engage Winona

In the words of Torrie Allen, president and CEO of Arts Midwest, “As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the nation, smaller arts and culture organizations are deeply hurting.” Because of deep inequities and historic under-resourcing, some are hurting more than others.

And several are being helped by COVID-19 relief grants from the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund. Launched earlier this year with a $10 million emergency grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, led by poet Elizabeth Alexander, the fund is administered by America’s six Regional Arts Organizations including Arts Midwest. The states supported by Arts Midwest are Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

In July, Arts Midwest split its $1.5 million in Mellon funds among 30 arts organizations, giving each non-matching grants of $50,000 to $55,000. The 30 included 22 BIPOC organizations (led by and serving people of color and/or indigenous communities) and 11 rural organizations (located in and/or serving communities of 50,000 people or fewer). All were organizations with pre-COVID annual budgets between $250,000 and $10 million.

In Minnesota, grants of $50,000 were awarded to Art of the Rural (Winona), Hmong Cultural Center (St. Paul), New York Mills Regional Cultural Center (New York Mills), Southeast Asian Diaspora Project (Minneapolis) and Theater Mu (St. Paul).

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In August, Arts Midwest announced it had received a landmark gift of another $1.5 million from an anonymous donor. It turned next to smaller organizations with pre-COVID annual budgets between $50,000 and $249,00. Yesterday (Wednesday, Dec. 2) it announced 61 recipients of grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, including 30 BIPOC and 32 rural organizations.

Theater Mu in St. Paul is one of five Minnesota grant recipients.
Courtesy of Theater Mu
Theater Mu in St. Paul is one of five Minnesota grant recipients.
Minnesota’s grantees are Manidoo Ogitigaan (Bemidji), Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop (Minneapolis), Rosy Simas Danse (Minneapolis), Threads Dance Project (Minneapolis), Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT; St. Paul), Indigenous Roots Cultural Art Center (St. Paul) and Brownbody (Vadnais Heights).

All recipients may use their Resilience Funds grants for their most pressing needs and opportunities. All nominees – the 91 recipients were chosen from more than 800 Midwestern organizations put forward by community members – will have access to free capacity-building resources and webinars from Arts Midwest in the coming months.

The picks

V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.

Rhiana Yazzi, artistic director of New Native Theatre
Rhiana Yazzi, artistic director of New Native Theatre
V Starts today (Thursday, Dec. 3): New Native Theatre: Fourth Annual Play Festival: Good Medicine. Ten days of plays, live music, dance, poetry, storytelling, monologues, talkbacks and live conversations featuring Native American, First Nations, Māori and Sámi artists from around the world. Participants include the Olbijerri Theatre Company (Melbourne), TūRongo Collective (New Zealand) and Giron Sámi Teáhter (Sweden). The lineup includes three plays produced by New Native Theatre: “Don’t Put Your Moccsins Under Your Pillow” by Lini Wilkins (Diné), “Iceman: The Frozen Protector” by Zane Smith (Red Lake Ojibwe) and “The Great Return” by Lara Gerhardson (White Earth, Red Lake & Leech Lake tribal descendant). The theme, Good Medicine, was inspired by Yvette Nolan’s book “Medicine Shows.” There’s also a focus on Indigenous Futurism. FMI including schedule and tickets ($60 Festival Pass or pay-what-you-can per show, $20 suggested). Through Dec. 13.

V Today (Thursday, Dec. 3): The Loft: From the Beginning: Jim Moore, Michael Dennis Browne and Margaret Hasse. These three poets have been part of the Loft and its related writing communities since its start in 1974. Browne and Hasse have new books this year; Moore’s next will be published by Graywolf in 2021. Moore and Browne are among the original founders; Hasse taught poetry there. Browne’s latest book came out in 2018; all three will read. Bring your questions for a short Q&A at the end. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($10, free as a thank-you to Loft members).

Laurel Lawson, a white woman, is flying in the air with arms spread wide, wheels spinning, and supported by Alice Sheppard. Alice, a light-skinned Black woman, is lifting from the ground below. They are making eye contact and smiling.
Photo by Jay Newman/BRITT Festival
Laurel Lawson, a white woman, is flying in the air with arms spread wide, wheels spinning, and supported by Alice Sheppard. Alice, a light-skinned Black woman, is lifting from the ground below. They are making eye contact and smiling.
V Starts today (Thursday, Dec. 3): Northrop and the Walker Art Center: Kinetic Light: “DESCENT.” This online premiere, a collaboration between Northrop and the Walker, also signals the return of the Walker’s performing arts season, usually announced in June but hobbled, like everything else, by COVID. It’s sad we can’t see it in person, like everything else, but when dance is filmed well, it can be thrilling — most recently, Andrea Miller and Helix Films’ “GALLIM,” presented by Northrop in December to launch its dance season. In “DESCENT,” a meditative thrill ride through a queer interracial love story, disability activists Alice Sheppard and Laurel Lawson perform on an elaborate structure of slopes, peaks and curves. Almost everything you see and hear will be the work of disabled artists. The performance will be followed by an artist conversation. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($18.50, $13.50 Walker members). Available through Saturday, Dec. 5.

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V Starts Friday (Dec. 4): History Theatre: “The Betty Crocker Musical.” It makes perfect sense that there would be a musical someday about Betty Crocker — and about women’s changing roles viewed through the lens of General Mills’ made-up character. Commissioned in March 2020, this one wasn’t due until Jan. 2021, but Cristina Luzarraga (book and lyrics) and Denise Prosek (music) agreed to “cook something up” a bit sooner. Austene Van is the director; the impressive ensemble cast includes Michelle Barber, Aimee K. Bryant, Rajana Katarah, Kim Kivens, Ann Michels, Sara Ochs, Britta Ollman, Lara Trujillo and Regina Williams. The final Raw Stages Zoom workshop of 2020 will feature a first act of about 30-40 minutes. FMI and tickets ($15-50 per person). Through Dec. 10.

Isabella Star LaBlanc and Becca Hart in “Is Edward Snowden Single?”
Courtesy of the Jungle Theater
Isabella Star LaBlanc and Becca Hart in “Is Edward Snowden Single?”
V Starts Saturday (Dec. 5): Jungle Theater: “Is Edward Snowden Single?” The world premiere of a new comedy by Kate Cortesi is also the Jungle’s first-ever virtual full-length production. Starring Becca Hart (“The Wolves,” “Ride the Cyclone,” “Small Mouth Sounds”), Isabella Star LaBlanc (“Little Women,” “The Wolves,” “Autonomy”) and some of Hart’s animations, directed by Christina Baldwin, the Jungle’s interim artistic director, this will be an entirely new experience. FMI and tickets ($35). Through Dec. 20.